Qualifying day at the Japanese Grand Prix has been cancelled due to the impact Typhoon Hagibis is expected to have on the Suzuka area on Saturday.
Final practice and qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix were due to be held on Saturday, but the increasing threat from high winds and heavy rain has resulted in the circuit cancelling all activities at the Suzuka Circuit on Saturday.
Qualifying will be rescheduled for 10:00am local time on Sunday morning, after the typhoon is forecast to have passed. The teams will be allowed to return to the track at 5:00am on Sunday morning once the team-members curfew, which is applied at all races to limit time spent working on the cars, is lifted. A track inspection will be carried out between 9:30am and 9:45am, including the first laps of the circuit after the typhoon by the FIA’s Safety Car. A Porsche Carerra Cup race was scheduled before F1 qualifying at 10:00am, but has now been cancelled.
The Japanese Grand Prix itself retains its original start time of 2:10pm local time on Sunday. In the event that conditions on Sunday morning are still too extreme to hold qualifying, the grid will be decided by the order of Friday’s final practice session. Valtteri Bottas topped the times in that session ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency has classed Hagibis as a “very strong typhoon”, its second highest category, and is predicting it will make landfall on Saturday afternoon to the east of Mie Province where the Suzuka Circuit is located. Although the circuit itself is not expected to take a direct hit, high winds and heavy rain are forecast throughout Saturday, with peak rainfall expected at 3:00pm when qualifying was originally scheduled.
Wind speeds in the typhoon, which measures 1,400km in width, have been measured at 198km/h, with gusts of up to 270km/h, but the Suzuka area is expected to be hit by winds of 90km/h on Saturday.
The risk to spectators and F1 personnel travelling to the event on Saturday led to the race promoters, Mobilityland, and the Japanese Automobile Federation agreeing to close the circuit throughout the day.
“As a result of the predicted impact of Typhoon Hagibis on the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix 2019, Mobilityland and the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) have decided to cancel all activities scheduled to take place on Saturday, 12 October,” an FIA statement said. “The FIA and Formula One support this decision in the interest of safety for the spectators, competitors and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit.”
Whether qualifying goes ahead will likely depend on the conditions and state of the circuit on Sunday morning. Flooding of access tunnels will be a consideration, as will high winds impacting the ability for the medical helicopter to fly. However, under the FIA’s Sporting Code, if an ambulance route can be guaranteed in under 20 minutes to the nearest hospital, the session will still be able to go ahead.
On Friday evening, precautions were being taken in the paddock to minimise damage, with metal anchors being drilled into the tarmac to prevent the roofs of the team hospitality units being blown away. The travelling F1 Communications building, which houses the sport’s broadcasting team and is erected outside the paddock at each race, was being dismantled on Friday evening to prevent damage to its structure and contents.
Teams also dismantled their pit walls after Friday practice and the faring around the F1 podium was taken down in the evening.
World champions Mercedes gave the following list of preparations it was carrying out.
– The pit wall will be folded down and have a pallet net over the top of it. – All panelling at the front of the garages will come down. – The garage shutter doors will be closed on both sides. – We will lift most of the equipment inside the garage from the floor so that it won’t be damaged by flooding. – We will move the furniture from our hospitality unit to the offices behind our hospitality. – We will take down the screens and speaker system in our hospitality and store it in the offices as well. – We are looking into preparations for power losses/power surges.
Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix has been postponed twice before at Suzuka in 2004 and 2010 when bad weather hit on the Saturday of the race weekend. In both instances qualifying was successfully held on Sunday morning ahead of the race.
In 2004 the weather was caused by Typhoon Ma-on, a tropical cyclone that was comparable in size to Typhoon Hagibis. In 2010 the bad weather was not caused by a typhoon, but track conditions still proved too treacherous for qualifying to get underway on Saturday afternoon.
Final classification for second practice:
1 – Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:27.785s
2 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) + 0.100s
3 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull) + 0.281s
4 – Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) + 0.356s
5 – Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) + 0.591s
6 – Alexander Albon (Red Bull) + 0.617s
7 – Carlos Sainz (McLaren) + 1.266s
8 – Sergio Perez (Racing Point) + 1.514s
9 – Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) + 1.569s
10 – Lando Norris (McLaren) + 1.573s
11 – Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) + 1.692s
12 – Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) + 1.727s
13 – Romain Grosjean (Haas) + 1.768s
14 – Lance Stroll (Racing Point) + 1.812s
15 – Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) + 1.866s
16 – Kevin Magnussen (Haas) + 1.964s
17 – Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) + 2.074s
18 – Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) + 2.549s
19 – Robert Kubica (Williams) + 3.131s
20 – George Russell (Williams) + 3.286s